Exercise in the treatment of rotator cuff impingement: a systematic review and a synthesized evidence-based rehabilitation protocol

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2009 Jan-Feb;18(1):138-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2008.06.004. Epub 2008 Oct 2.


A systematic review of the literature was performed to evaluate the role of exercise in treating rotator cuff impingement and to synthesize a standard evidence-based rehabilitation protocol. Eleven randomized, controlled trials (level 1 and 2) evaluating the effect of exercise in the treatment of impingement were identified. Data regarding demographics, methodology, and outcomes of pain, range of motion, strength, and function were recorded. Individual components of each rehabilitation program were catalogued. Effectiveness was determined by statistical and clinical significance. Although many articles had methodologic concerns, the data demonstrate that exercise has statistically and clinically significant effects on pain reduction and improving function, but not on range of motion or strength. Manual therapy augments the effects of exercise, yet supervised exercise was not different than home exercise programs. Information regarding specific components of the exercise programs was synthesized into a gold standard rehabilitation protocol for future studies on the nonoperative treatment of rotator cuff impingement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Rotator Cuff / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome